Thu, 29 Jul 2021

Islamabad [Pakistan], June 14 (ANI): As Pakistan continues to stifle freedom of speech, the country is pursuing an unrelenting assault on journalism as scribes are fired, harassed and assaulted for their critical reporting.

Umer Ali writes for DW news agency that the military and its intelligence services are among the more "sensitive" entities in Pakistan and so they don't like being named. Due to that, the journalists use a range of phrases, such as 'the establishment' for the military, the 'agriculture department' for the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) and 'trips for northern areas' for enforced disappearances.

Highlighting the brutal assault on Pakistani journalist Asad Ali Toor and the shooting of Absar Alam outside his home for criticising the military, Ali noted that no progress has been made to arrest the culprits despite Islamabad being known for its extensive surveillance camera system.

In July 2020, another prominent journalist, Matiullah Jan, was abducted from outside his wife's school. However, his kidnapping was caught on camera and he was released later after a severe backlash.

The attacks on journalists are part of a broader assault on civil liberties in Pakistan, as several human rights activists and opposition politicians face arrests and 'treason' charges, Ali wrote for DW.

Moreover, the Imran Khan-led government has continued a policy of gaslighting the journalists, which was noticeable when during an interview, Pakistan's minister for information bragged about taking notice of the latest attack on Toor. He also alleged that it's "fashionable" in the western media to accuse the ISI and that individuals about Pakistan's intelligence agencies "lie" to "get immigration".

According to Umer Ali, Khan's government is pursuing a journalist protection bill, in a similar duplicitous fashion, as well as an ordinance to establish a "media development authority", which has been unanimously condemned by journalist and rights bodies as "draconian in scope and devastating in its impact.""With or without euphemisms, it's apparent that Pakistan's military doesn't like independent journalism. And by aiding and abetting the assault on journalism and gaslighting those who are attacked, Imran Khan's government has also made a choice -- for all the world to see," he wrote for DW news agency.

Earlier, Hamid Mir, the host of the flagship news program "Capital Talk", was taken off the air for three days after he spoke against the rising curbs on freedom of expression in the country and about the safety of his colleagues, following the recent attack on Toor.

Other media outlets have come under pressure from authorities not to criticise government institutions or the judiciary.

Freedom of the press has long been a problem in Pakistan but the situation has deteriorated markedly under Imran Khan, who has dismissed allegations of attacks on the Pakistani press as a "joke".

Earlier, three international rights groups on Thursday voiced grave concern at the recent attacks on journalists in Pakistan and mounting pressure on scribes critical of the Imran Khan-led government.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has ranked Pakistan the fifth most dangerous place for the practice of journalism, with 138 media persons there having lost their lives in the line of duty between 1990 and 2020. (ANI)

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